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Sudan17 April 2008

Secret police seize copies of six daily newspapers

Reporters Without Borders called on the Sudanese government today to lift its almost three-month censorship of the privately-owned press in Khartoum which has intensified in recent days with the seizure of six daily newspapers.

"These are the most serious press freedom violations since the 2005 peace agreement that was supposed to end emergency laws,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Secret police surveillance of newspaper staff is outrageous and illegal and the national unity government must put a stop to it. The media, one of the better aspects of modern Sudan, is being punished without reason and in violation of the national constitution.”

The National Security Service (NSS) domestic intelligence agency phoned the editors of 10 daily papers on 13 April and ordered them to henceforth submit all their content for prior approval under the censorship illegally reestablished on 6 February. But the papers all refused to comply and printed their editions in the normal way. The police then went to the printers and seized copies of Ajras al-Huriyya, Rai al-Shaab and Al-Ayyam on 15 April.

The editions of Al-Sudani, al-Ahdath, Ajras al-Huriyya, Rai al-Shaab and the English-language daily The Citizen were seized the next day (yesterday) after several tens of thousands of copies had been printed. The four Arab-language dailies had been warned not to report the press conference held the day before by the editors of Ajras al-Huriyya criticising the new censorship, a local journalist told Reporters Without Borders.

The government imposed censorship on 6 February on privately-owned media outlets after they had mentioned several times that the government was backing Chadian rebels in their attack on the Ndjamena government. After a month of secret police harassment of the press, the NSS official told Reuters news agency on 6 March that the prior censorship was “temporary.” The same day, NSS agents went to newsrooms to check the content of the next day’s paper before it was printed.

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